#Veterans Military

#Veterans Military

Here’s The Presidential Hand-Cannon Gunmaker Jesse James Created Just For Trump

Posted: 18 Jan 2018 03:04 PM PST

Forget who has the bigger button: President Donald Trump probably has the biggest gun of all the world leaders — and if not the biggest, it's certainly the glitziest — thanks to chopper-modder turned gunsmith, Jesse James.

In a Jan. 18 Maxim exclusive, the celebrity mechanic and armsmith of West Coast Choppers fame debuted his newest creation — a 24-karat gold plated .45 for 45 from Jesse James Firearms Unlimited.  

The modified 1911 has an extended barrel perfectly designed to conjure up those Clint Eastwood feels when President Trump is swaggering around the Oval Office being "modern day presidential." Plus, it'll give him an excuse to say: You feel lucky, punk?

"Dirty Harry always had that long .44 Magnum. So it seemed kinda obvious that we should do a .45 caliber since he's the 45th president, right?" James told Maxim's Chris Wilson.


The gold-gilded hand-cannon was created by Jesse James of West Coast Choppers fame.

James, who befriended Trump after appearing on The Celebrity Apprentice in 2009, decided to craft the pistol "as soon as I knew he was gonna win," he told Maxim. "I wanted to really do something special. Even without the presidency, I wanted to do something that was a little on the flamboyant side."

Related: This Freedom-Loving Firearm Is Forged With Pieces Of The Statue Of Liberty »

And, well, he nailed it. Beyond all the gold and shiny, the pistol says "Donald Trump" on one side, "45th President of the United States Of America" on the other,  and "Build That Wall" on the muzzle. It has a two-piece slide and compensator, and also comes in a handmade case apparently created from one of the George Washington's original Chestnut trees.

The price of the pistol — which James seems intent to sell in order to keep this gold-plated cannon in Trump's hand, rather than resting in a presidential museum — is still under wraps. Who knows, though, if the president buys it maybe he can write it off as a work expense on his taxes.


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DoD To T&P: Stop Calling Our Syrian Border Force A ‘Border Force’

Posted: 18 Jan 2018 02:07 PM PST

When is a border force not a "border force"? When the Turks vow to destroy it.

Media outlets have recently reported that the United States planned to train 30,000 Kurds to serve as a border force in northern Syria. Naturally, the Turks — who consider the Syrian Kurds to be terrorists — were not thrilled. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, with his characteristic restraint, has vowed to "drown" the so-called border force before it can be stood up.

The Department of Defense issued a statement on Wednesday clarifying that the local security forces being trained in Syria are not a border force at all. Rather, they are meant to stop ISIS from launching a guerrilla war.

"We are keenly aware of the security concerns of Turkey, our coalition partner and NATO ally," the statement says. "Turkey’s security concerns are legitimate. We will continue to be completely transparent with Turkey about our efforts in Syria to defeat ISIS and stand by our NATO ally in its counter-terrorism efforts."

As the Turks threaten to attack Kurdish forces in the Syrian town of Afrin, Task & Purpose asked the Pentagon what in the living hell is going on. The following is excerpts from an interview with Pentagon spokesman Eric Pahon, edited for length and clarity.

What is this force and its mission?

First of all, this is not a new "army" or "border security force" as you have seen reported. This is an internally focused security force set on establishing stability and preventing the return of ISIS.

Why is it wrong to refer to refer to this force as a "border security force"?

You are looking at stabilizing a variety of areas that we have already freed from ISIS. What we don't want to happen here is that we free these areas and then ISIS just flows right back in.

As we look to encircle ISIS in the middle Euphrates River Valley, you're going to see more and more of their fighters trying to flee to other areas of the country. In the Idlib area, there's already been ISIS claims that they have retaken some territory. We do not want to see that happen in the eastern part of the country.

Our partners on the ground have sacrificed themselves by the thousands, and we don't want to continue this battle any longer than we absolutely need to. And we don't want to allow an ISIS insurgence.

In addition, we need to prevent the inflow and outflow of foreign fighters. We've been very successful in limiting that. What we want to do is make sure that they don't have any kind of route that they can get out of the country. We also want to stop their resupply. The stability force is going to assist with that.

How many people will be part of this group?

The size of this force is going to be determined by needs on the ground. Obviously, we are in close coordination with our coalition allies, including Turkey, about what the future is going to look like here.

The needs on the ground are going to determine what the size of this force is. I can't put a number on it right now.

Will this group incorporate existing forces on the ground or will the U.S. military train, arm, and equip new fighters?

This isn't really much of a shift from the things that we've already been doing: Training, advising and assisting local partner forces on the ground.

The SDF [Syrian Democratic Forces] is made up of local forces from these areas that we are liberating from ISIS. You are looking at very much the same thing here.

The Turks have said publicly that they are going to attack Afrin. Does the Department of Defense have a response?

We don't have operations ongoing in Afrin. What we would ask is that all actors in the region avoid any further escalation and maintain the focus on our common enemy, which is ISIS.


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Here’s How A Government Shutdown Would Impact Military Pay And Benefits

Posted: 18 Jan 2018 01:12 PM PST

Editor's Note: This article by Amy Bushatz originally appeared on Military.com, the premier source of information for the military and veteran community.

If Congress does not pass a spending bill by midnight Friday, the U.S. government will once again shut down until a deal is reached.

President Donald Trump has expressed support for a Republican-backed continuing resolution that would extend government funding through Feb. 16, but it hasn’t passed yet.

How would a shutdown impact military and retiree pay and benefits or payments from the Department of Veterans Affairs?

Although the Defense Department has not yet released specific guidance for 2018, it has released such information in the past. Here’s what we know:

Troop pay

Active-duty troops, as well as Guard and Reserve members, would not get paid during a shutdown unless Congress passes a separate piece of legislation to do so.

That means if a shutdown starts Jan. 19 and stretches into the next several weeks, troops’ Feb. 1 pay will be delayed.

Retiree pay and SBP payments

Military retirees would still receive their regular pension checks in the event of a shutdown, as would those receiving a Survivor’s Benefit Plan (SBP) payment.

That’s because those funds are paid from a different account that is not impacted by the annual funding bill Congress has yet to pass.

Troops killed in action

Newly bereaved family members would not receive the Pentagon’s $100,000 death gratuity during a shutdown or military-funded travel to Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, or elsewhere for the dignified transfer or military funeral or memorial.

Servicemembers Group Life Insurance (SGLI) payments, however, would not be affected.

VA disability pay and GI Bill benefits

Like retiree pay, VA disability pay and GI Bill payments are both funded through different legislation than is at risk on the Hill. For that reason, those checks are unlikely to be affected by a brief shutdown.

However, during the last shutdown in 2013, VA officials warned that if the closure extended beyond several weeks, disability checks were unlikely to go out to more than 5.1 million veterans.

Military moves and travel

In the past, military families about to make a permanent change of station(PCS) move or troops preparing for temporary travel (TDY) were told that their travel would be on hold until after the shutdown.

Although guidance has not yet been issued this year, the same would likely be true.

Medical care on base

In the past, the DoD has warned that while military hospitals would stay open for emergencies, inpatient care and acute care, all other types of care — including elective procedures and primary-care appointments — would be canceled.

In the event of a shutdown this week, you should contact your clinic or hospital to find out more about your scheduled care.

On-base child care

In the past, on-base military child care centers have stayed open on a case-by-case basis, depending on whether they were seen as “essential.” The same would likely be true this year.

On-base schools

Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) schools stayed open during the 2013 shutdown, and the same would likely be true this year.

On-base schools that are operated by local school districts also would not be affected by a shutdown.

Commissaries, exchanges, and MWR

Military exchanges will remain open during a shutdown thanks to the way they are funded.

Stateside commissaries, however, would likely close as they did in 2013, while those overseas would remain open since they are considered “essential.”

MWR activities would likely temporarily shutter on a case-by-case basis due to how those services are funded.

More from Military.com:

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Do You Speak Military? Then Enter This Simple — But Difficult! — New Contest

Posted: 18 Jan 2018 11:00 AM PST

Here's our first Long March contest: Write one sentence of U.S. military jargon that is credible to military personnel yet incomprehensible to civilians. Something like, "I was no-notice tasked to fix a C4ISR problem the divarty S-2 was having, but then some CatFour ND'd his Ma Deuce straight through the brigade satcom power system." Or this, from a magazine sitting on my desk: "While C4I is a critical element that enables the ARG/MEU SOFLE to accomplish its mission and to maximize SOF-CF I3, the modified program also creates challenges."

Yes, Long Marchers, you CAN do better than that. You're smart, you can do things. When you do, please send to: thelongmarch@taskandpurpose.com.

Entrants will be published in this column, and you all will get to vote on a winner, who will get a signed copy of one of my books. Second place gets two books, of course.

The post Do You Speak Military? Then Enter This Simple — But Difficult! — New Contest appeared first on Task & Purpose.

Is The Air Force Still Secretly Plotting To Kill The A-10 Warthog?

Posted: 18 Jan 2018 09:08 AM PST

The A-10 Warthog got a major boost from Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson at the end of 2017, and Congress has told the service to overhaul the beloved light attack aircraft's wings to extend its life by another 20 years. But internally, branch officials would prefer that the tank-killer jet up its wings for good, a new report suggests.

Civilian A-10 program manager Todd Mathes told roughly 100 officials in a recent meeting on the A-10 project that the Warthog's multi-million dollar re-winging and rebirth simply "was not going to happen," the Project on Government Oversight reports.

Mathes' comments contrast sharply with Wilson's commitment to the A-10 in testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee last month. The 2018 defense budget had authorized $103 million to "add money to the Air Force budget to retool and open a line for wings," Wilson said. "If that comes through, we will execute that and get that line started back up so that we can [retool] the first four or five sets of wings."

"I happen to be a fan of the A-10," the former Air Force officer added with a smile.

The POGO report on Mathes' comments is based on interviews with meeting attendees who declined to be identified out of fear of retaliation by the Air Force. Two years ago, the vice commander Air Combat Command — the same command where Mathes works, according to POGO — told a group of airmen that writing their congressmen in support of the A-10 amounted to "committing treason." That commander, a two-star general, was fired three months later following a branch IG investigation into his remarks. 

"According to Mr. Mathes's reported statements, as the wings wear out, the Air Force will allow the number of flyable A-10s to draw down to 171 aircraft," POGO's Dan Grazier, a former Marine officer, reports. "As the number of operational aircraft falls, so, too, will the number of A-10 squadrons, going from nine squadrons down to six. Six is exactly the number the USAF is planning for, according to Congressional testimony by Air Force Lieutenant Generals Jerry Harris and Arnold Bunch."

Cantankerousness in Air Combat Command's A-10 program office is just another wrinkle in the aircraft's recent roller-coaster ride. The Air Force has been actively pushing to phase out the light attack craft in favor of the F-35 since at least March 2014, when the service issued a public affairs guidance on A-10 phaseout, decreeing that A-10 units "will not actively seek any media coverage" praising the aircraft. Two and a half years later, Gen. Ellen Pawlikowski of Air Force Materiel Command stated that the DoD planned on funding the aircraft "indefinitely."

Air Force Public Affairs Guidance On A-10 Divestment

But after the Pentagon released a FY 2018 budget proposal that would fully fund "the entire fleet of 283 A-10 Thunderbolt IIs," Bunch testified to the House Armed Services Committee in June that the Air Force planned on reducing its force structure to six squadrons, drawing ire from Republican Rep. Martha McSally of Arizona. "It's the first time you've publicly said that you are going to go down to six squadrons," McSally — a former A-10 pilot and current Senate candidate — told Bunch. "I'd really like to know what those planning assumptions are of the six squadrons."

 “We don’t know if [Mathes’] statement was made as it was reported, or, if it was, what the context was. So it’s difficult to provide any kind of clarification,” ACC public affairs director Col. Tadd Sholtis told Task & Purpose when reached for comment. “Because of persistent budget uncertainty and the nature of the budget cycle, the current status of the program can only be based on what we know, which is this: pending approval of the FY18 appropriation, the Air Force plans to use the $103 million authorized in the FY18 NDAA to award a contract, establish a new wing production line and produce four additional A-10 wings, which is all that money funds.”

So for now, the Warthog's future remains cloudy — but one thing is clear: As long as the A-10 remains on the chopping block, folks like Grazier's sources and McSally will clearly do whatever it takes to convince lawmakers and the American public it shouldn't be.


UPDATE: This story was updated to include a statement from Air Combat Command Director of Public Affairs Col. Tadd Sholtis who responded to Task & Purpose's comment request after the story published. (1/18/2018; 12:23 pm)

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Armageddon Meter: The Chance Of War With North Korea Drops Down To 42%

Posted: 18 Jan 2018 07:00 AM PST

That's good news. When we last checked the meter in December, it had peaked at 54%. Some people attribute this sharp new decline to the passage of a few weeks without any wildly provocative actions, plus direct talks between the two Korean states, and everyone making nice as the Winter Olympics near.

On the other hand, Eliot Cohen, the Johns Hopkins strategist, commented earlier this month that "There are sounds, for those who can hear them, of the preliminary and muffled drumbeats of war."

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Navy Is Planning More Promotions, Bonuses For Sailors As Service Expands

Posted: 18 Jan 2018 05:05 AM PST

YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — Sailors can expect more promotions and re-enlistment bonuses as the service starts growing again, according to the Navy's personnel chief.

Vice Adm. Robert Burke, who also serves as deputy chief of Naval Operations, told sailors at the 7th Fleet headquarters in Japan this week that the days of pushing sailors out early are over.

Navy chiefs want a force of 350,000 sailors to meet a 355-ship goal set by President Donald Trump. The service now has less than 320,000 active-duty personnel and 280 ships.

"All of our people policies have been aligned towards pushing people out of the Navy … we've always needed to get smaller," Burke said.

Now the Navy will make it harder to leave, he said.

"Advancement opportunities are going to go through the roof," he added.

A fundamental problem is that the Navy doesn't have enough sailors to man all its ships, Burke said.

"We aren't where we want to be on manning and we're going to continue to not be where we want to be until FY19 or FY20," he said. "We're catching up as fast as we can and we're going to get there."

Last month, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson told Yokosuka sailors that the service needs more ships and people to confront threats such as North Korea.

"Increasing the number of platforms is a very important part of naval power," he said. "The [National Defense Authorization Act] talks about 355 ships as the target and we're going to do everything we can to get there. There is a near unanimous consensus that we need more naval power than we have now."

The Navy plans to reach its goal by increasing the number of new sailors and retaining those already in uniform, Burke said.

The service recently abolished high-tenure limits and stopped letting sailors leave before their scheduled separation dates.

Selective re-enlistment bonuses will help retain personnel in key jobs, Burke said.

Lack of funding had pushed the service into hard choices but now the Navy needs an influx of sailors to fill gaps on ships, he said.

The service usually adds 32,000 to 33,000 sailors a year but is planning to add 38,700 sailors this fiscal year and 40,000 in the fiscal year 2019, Burke said.

"To get ourselves out of the manning deficit we have right now, we need 11,000 more people in the Navy by FY23," he said.

"We're going to be ramping up like crazy."


©2018 the Stars and Stripes. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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Senators Call Out Shulkin On VA’s Unfilled Top Jobs

Posted: 18 Jan 2018 04:55 AM PST

WASHINGTON — Why four top jobs within the Department of Veterans Affairs remain unfilled nearly one year after President Donald Trump took office drew the attention of members of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee on Wednesday as the questioned VA Secretary David Shulkin about the state of the agency.

The VA, the second-largest federal department, is operating without permanent leaders for its benefits administration and large health care system. Also missing are its IT leader and the assistant secretary for the agency's new accountability and whistleblower protection office. The leadership void came up at the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee hearing, where Shulkin gave testimony on the "State of the VA."

"One thing that concerns me deeply is the four positions that remain unfilled in the department," said Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., the committee chairman. "I know you're trying, but this is one of those things where an 'A' for effort isn't enough."

The job of undersecretary for benefits has been vacant since October 2015, when then-undersecretary Allison Hickey resigned after being implicated in a government watchdog report for helping two VA employees manipulate the department hiring system.

The VA created a commission last spring to choose a new undersecretary. Shulkin told senators Wednesday that the commission sent three names to the White House. Their first choice for the job withdrew, Shulkin said, and Trump's administration is now vetting the second choice.

Also going through the vetting process is a candidate selected to serve as assistant secretary for information technology, Shulkin said.

Filling the position of undersecretary for health – Shulkin's old job – has proven to be more of a challenge. Two separate commissions were created last year to find candidates, and both failed to select anyone, Shulkin said.

"We plucked you out of the job to lead the VA," Isakson said. "That was a good idea. The bad idea is we still don't have anybody in your place as undersecretary of health."

Responding to the committee's concerns, Shulkin said another commission, led by Deputy VA Secretary Thomas Bowman, will convene Jan. 25 and 26. The commission will be tasked with choosing three candidates for the undersecretary of health job and send them to the White House for consideration Jan. 26.

Former President Barack Obama appointed Shulkin undersecretary of health in 2015, a job in which he led the country's largest health care system, with more than 160 medical centers and 900 outpatient clinics that serve 9 million veterans. Shulkin called the position "one of the hardest jobs in America."

"It's one with wide criticism and public scrutiny," he said. "You have to find the person with both the skills to do it, as well as the passion for the job and the willingness to take on such a challenge. This is an essential position for us, so we have to get it right."

Dr. Carolyn Clancy, who has been with the VA for longer than 10 years, is filling in as undersecretary of health in an interim roll. She took over in October, after the pervious interim undersecretary, Dr. Poonam Alaigh, unexpectedly stepped down from the position.

"We have an excellent acting undersecretary, and I'm very confident in her capabilities," Shulkin said. "So, we will continue with recruitment until we get the right person."

Peter O'Rourke leads the VA's new accountability and whistleblower protection office and is responsible for choosing an assistant secretary. Shulkin told senators Wednesday to follow up with him about that vacancy.


©2018 the Stars and Stripes. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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In Case You Missed It: Horton On The Politicization Of Military Deaths

Posted: 18 Jan 2018 04:30 AM PST

Sometimes I read an article and think, "Dang, I wish I'd written that." This thoughtful article is one of those. It isn't just about the military, it is about who we are as a people nowadays.

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